Practice-Based Research Networks and Massage Therapy: a Scoping Review

  • Samantha Zabel, MA Indiana University School of Health and Human Sciences
  • Niki Munk, PhD, LMT Indiana University School of Health and Human Sciences—IUPUI, University of Technology Sydney
Keywords: massage therapy, practice-based research networks, BraveNet, MNO-PBRN, MassageNet, PRACI


Background: Practice-based research networks (PBRNs) are means to connect practitioners with researchers and increase the body of rigorous research. PBRNs have been used in medicine for decades, but efforts to create PBRNs in massage therapy (MT) are limited.

Purpose: Examine and describe the amount of and nature of MT-related publications derived from PBRN-supported endeavors.

Publication Selection: Databases: Scopus, CINAHL, PubMed, ClinicalKey, EMBASE, Google Scholar. Keywords: massage, massage therapy, practice-based research network, PBRN. Key items: publication year, operating PBRN, article type, study design, general theme, massage therapist involvement/MT application. Inclusion Criteria: studies conducted through a PBRN using MT/massage therapists as an investigated factor; articles/editorials focused on PBRN-related MT research.

Results: Initial database search resulted in 444 records; 40 articles included in analysis from database search, PBRN website access, and PBRN staff contacts. Publication dates ranged from 2005 to 2019, with nearly all published since 2013. Nine PBRNs published 29 articles based on 20 studies and sub-studies as research papers (n=21) or poster/oral presentation abstracts (n=8), and articles discussing the need for PBRNs in MT (n=8). Most research studies were conducted as surveys (n=21), examining practice characteristics (n=9) and patient perspectives/utilization (n=7). Three articles discussing PBRNs in MT were not connected to any specific PBRN.

Conclusion: The PBRN model holds promise to further the field of MT, but implementation needs significant development. Promoting the creation and growth of massage-specific PBRNs should be a focus of professional associations and research institutions to expand the body of scientific evidence supporting MT. While the United States has had the most PBRN-related research efforts, a sustainable implementation model is not evident as highlighted by inactivity from US-based PBRNs after initial productivity. An Australian PBRN may serve as a needed sustainability model for massage-related PBRNs in the US if their productivity trajectory continues.

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How to Cite
Zabel, MA, S. ., & Munk, PhD, LMT, N. (2020). Practice-Based Research Networks and Massage Therapy: a Scoping Review. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education, &Amp; Practice, 13(4), 25–34.